Opinion & Editorial

Treatment courts save lives, taxpayer dollars

In May we observe National Treatment Court Month. Amidst an increasing rate of fatalities from opioid overdose and the urgent need for solutions, treatment courts emerge as a beacon of hope. These specialty courts — which seek to address the substance use that underlie and exacerbate criminal charges — not only provide participants with an opportunity for redemption but also deliver substantial financial benefits for taxpayers and improve community safety. 

The bottom line is that treatment courts save lives, save families, and save the taxpayers money.

The treatment court is made up of an interdisciplinary team who work together to provide care, support, and accountability to program participants. Judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officers, and treatment providers form the backbone of this team, and each brings perspective and expertise to the table. They collaborate closely to identify the needs of each participant, develop individualized case and treatment plans, and monitor progress throughout the program. This collaboration ensures participants receive the necessary tools and incentives to break the cycle of substance use and criminal behavior to enter long-term recovery. 

Lane County is home to four treatment courts. The Lane County Adult Treatment Court was founded in 1994 and was among the first 20 treatment courts in the United States. 

The Juvenile Recovery and Progress (RAP) Court was added in 2000, followed by Veterans Treatment Court in 2011 and Mental Health Court in 2016. These programs are successful due to strong partnerships between the Lane County Circuit Court, Lane County District Attorney’s office, Lane Public Defender Services, Lane County Parole and Probation, and treatment providers like Emergence.

 According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, every dollar invested in treatment courts generates an impressive return on investment, ranging from $2 to $3 in cost savings. 

By steering individuals away from costly cycles of incarceration and towards evidence-based treatment programs, treatment courts not only reduce recidivism rates but also alleviate the burden on taxpayers. These courts offer a cost-effective alternative that not only saves dollars but also invests in the transformative power of recovery. 

The statistics further reveal that participants in treatment courts are up to 35% less likely to reoffend compared to those who undergo traditional sentencing. By providing a comprehensive approach that addresses the underlying causes of criminal behavior, treatment courts empower individuals to break free from the grip of substance use and irresponsible choices.

 Through counseling and access to support services that address social determinants of health, participants receive the support necessary for sustained recovery, leading to safer communities as the cycle of crime is disrupted.

To fully unlock the potential of treatment courts, we must invest in their continued growth and accessibility. 

With that in mind, the City of Springfield is currently exploring the possibility of creating its own municipal treatment court. 

Just last month, the City applied for funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance drug court discretionary grant program. If approved, this grant could bring up to $900,000 into our community over four years to help our neighbors find recovery and make our streets safer.

Chris Wig serves as Executive Director of Emergence Addiction and Behavioral Therapies. Emergence delivers substance use, mental health, and disordered gambling treatment to people in Lane and Linn Counties.



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